THE HAMBURG SLAVEGIRL
DISCLAIMER: I have not made this outfit.
This "Slavegirl" costumes was, along with many other "Phantom of the Opera" costumes and items, sold in an auction at Neue Flora Theater in 1995 or 1996 sometime. The Slavegirl and Star Princess ones were bought by a woman working in the costume department at Neue Flora in the 90s, and she recently contacted me and asked if I were interested in buying these costumes. I think I responded "YES!!" in five different languages... Because not only is the Hamburg costumes some of my favourites, it was also items worn by two lead roles, and they were so beautiful.
The Slavegirl costume was worn by dancer Julie Collins. She started in the corps de ballet ca. 1992, and had become principal Meg Giry by 1993. She remained that for a year or two, but had left the cast by 1995. The costume was thus worn by her between 1992-95 sometime. In style it corresponds more with what Anna Maria Kaufmann (original Hamburg Christine) wore in the show's first years, than the heavy-gold-collar ones Colby Thomas (long-running Hamburg Christine) wore in the mid-90s. So Julie Collins might have gotten a hand-me-down costume from a dancer who had left, or they were still made in this style when she joined. Whatever the case, the bodice is altered in the back, with inserts to make the bodice larger around the torso. There is a name tag on the inside of the bodice, which say "Name: Julie Collins. Szene: Hannibal". The field of the role is left blank, so it might be she first wore this costume when she was in the ensemble. Had she played Meg Giry at the time, I assume they would have written so on the tag. But she probably kept wearing it when playing Meg.
VARIOUS SLAVEGIRL PICTURES
1. One of Maria Bjørnson's design for the slavegirls, 1986.
2. to 5. Slavegirl costumes from a Hamburg brochure, ca. 1993.
6. Dunja Siehl and Anna Maria Kaufmann, Hamburg 1990.
7. Julie Collins' headshot, ca. 1993.
8. Julie Collins in Don Juan Gypsy costume, ca. 1993.
9. Demonstrating decorations on a Hannibal costume, Hamburg 1998.
THE ROPE SKIRT
The original slavegirl costumes in Hamburg had fairly long bodices, especially when compared to contemporary ones from London, Vienna and Stockholm. They had broad golden collars, and denser golden belts. The general way of decorating collar and "crotch tiara", and also tabs in Elissa skirts and Piangi's costume, was to use large golden appliquées on a coloured or black fundament. Various gems were then attached on top. This is demonstrated in a picture from a 1998 souvenir brochure from Hamburg (number 7 in the gallery). The process of decorating the costumes seems to have been the same inn all German productions, but the density of the gold and size of the collar have varied. The Julie Collins one has a medium big collar studded with gold, and originally it had lots of gems too.
A little bit of the black fundament is viewable in the collar and crotch tiara, while the belt has much denser gold pattern. This is in sync with most European versions. The same goes for the skirt. It's made of soft, thick cords of alternating red, green and black colour. All three colours are used all around the skirt, while the front also has gold cords. Again, this is in sync with other European versions, though they also tend to have strings of beads in front. Japanese and Canadian slavegirl skirts have about the same appearance. Something similar is also seen in the original West End costumes, except the skirts were denser, and had more green than red cords. In contrast there's the American and Australian versions, where the red and green panels of the bodice is continued into the skirt; in the USA by slashing velvet, and in Australia by using broad strands of soft chenille cords.
1. The design shows thick cords of red, green and golden nuances, the actual spacing is up to interpretation.
2. Sarah Brightman in West End, 1986. Many green cords framed with fewer red cords. In the front both gold cords and gold beads is used.
3. Newer West End costumes, same kind used in all European versions. Red, green and black ropes is used all around. Beaded strings and gold cord is added in front.
4. Teresa de Zarn in Canada, ca. 1997. At least red and green cords all around. Red cords are rather pronounced in front, in between the strings of beads.
5. Japanese slavegirls, 2010, with no separate "crotch tiara", rather an integrated part of the belt. Red, green and black cords is used in the skirt, with strings of beads in front.
6. Julie Hanson on Broadway, ca. 2006. Red and green velvet is slashed and attached to the bodice, continuing the bodice panels. Only "crotch tiara" is removed.
7. Ana Marina in the World Tour, in Aussie costume. It reminds of the US versions, but I'm actually not sure if the whole skirt is removed, or just the front.
I am a bit surprised this costumes was considered in poor enough shape to be sold off. There are signs of wear and tear, and stuff missing, but nothing that could not have been mended. I've seen costumes in West End and on Broadway in worse shape than this one. Still, there are damages, which I've tried to explain underneath. I have been working on mending this costume. Most of the work done is to prevent further damages, especially to the gold of the collar and belt. But everything done is reversible, so the integrity of the item is preserved.
The bodice is made of 12 velvet panels; 6 red and 6 green. It's lined with two layers of a sturdy white cotton twill, with pockets for boning sewn in between the layers. Each panel has one strip of boning, and there's additional black pockets sewn on top of the serged seams. From what I can tell, the cotton twill boning is rigilene, while the black pockets have steel. The velvet seems to be cotton, with very short pile. The red has a hint of raspberry, while the green is deep emerald green. The bodice has a defined waistline, and it also curves nicely over the bust. The inside of the bodice has a broad, white waistband, a bit smaller than the actual circumference of the bodice. This is similar to what's seen in Victorian bodices, and it's put in to anchor the costume on the wearer, and to avoid straining on the seams. The inside also has black bands on inside upper and lower bodice, to prevent wear and tear. These can be replaced if worn out, and hence give the costume a longer life. The bodice also have two pairs of straps - flesh coloured elastic ones worn over the shoulders of the wearer (and also a point of attachment for beads over shoulders in the back), and shorter white cotton straps in the waist, to allow the costume to hang on a hanger when not used.
The bodice is closed in the back with small hooks and eyes. The belt is overlapping a bit in the back, and is closed with four large, sturdy snap buttons. The inside waistband is also closed with hooks and eyes, though only one large pair. The size is tiny - I would think an European 34, which equals US 2/UK 6. Not surprising, since it was worn by a member of the corps de ballet.
The bodice seems to have been altered at some point. There are two additional triangles in the upper back, made of black velvet, probably to make it bigger over the bust. The red and green velvet has traces of a previous seam, and the trims seems to have been altered too, not quite fitting the seams. The waistband inside the bodice seems too short in the back. This points towards Julie Collins getting a hand-me-down costume when she joined the corps de ballet in Hamburg in 1992. It might very well be an original Hamburg costume. I don't know if she continued wearing this costume when playing Meg - as mentioned before, the name tag inside only states her name and the scene, and not the role she played. They might not have bothered to add that detail when she became Meg, or she might have gotten a new costume. But the costume shows clear signs of wear and tear, and of alternations, which tells it was in use for more than a year.
Front, back and inside of the bodice. Note the tear where rigilene pokes through.
One of the biggest surprises when studying the costume was the trims used vertically on the bodice. Or rather, the broad one. It's sparkly from all angles, and rather broad. It's always appears so ornamental in photos, and now I understand why. It's made of a semi broad trim; a silver weave with gold outerlines. This has been looped backwards, on the left, then on the right, then on the left again etc, to create pointed folds. Think a Pink Ribbon as starting point, the ribbon always folding backwards, every other way. I've tried to demonstrate it with a green ribbon with gold outerline underneath. To achieve a good result, it's essential the ribbon is identical on both sides. The narrower trim is also metallic, with small stiff loops on each side, reminding of an agraman. It seems like the broad one is consistent in most European and even Canadian versions of the costume, while the narrower one varies greatly. The Hamburg one seems to be extraordinarily narrow compared to what's used elsewhere.
The wristbands are circular in front, and with straps going around the wrist. They seem to have a buckram core, with gold lamé fabric wrapped around. The inside it lined with a black felt like fabric. One large and two smaller gold appliqués are sewn to the gold lamé, and red and green "gems" are attached on top, in a "flower" pattern echoing that of the appliqués. They're closed with one big snap button. There is a name tag on the inside, only letters still viewable are ELAN on one, and LANI on the other. My best guess is that they were worn by dancer Melanie Luepené Turner, who was in the corps de ballet in Hamburg ca. 1995-97.
Construction of broad trim, closeup of trims, and also a closeup of the armbands.
The bodice has a gold collar, and a belt with "crotch tiara" in front and back. To the belt a rope skirt is attached. The gold is pretty damaged. It's made of various overlapping appliqués of spiraled metal threads, along with gold sequins and beads. There are paisley figures, rosettas, flowers, leaves and many other shapes. The fundament of the appliqués is ocher. These are in turn attached to a black fundament; for the collar a black satin silk has been used, and for the belt a black velveteen has been used. The collar also has a gold trim around the main shape. It appears the gold spiral threads has been caught in something, maybe the wig, and pulled loose. They appear as wrinkly, long metal threads sticking out instead of marking the outer lines of the appliqué shapes. Several beads and sequins was also missing, and especially at the collar only the ocher fundament was visible.
The collar also showed clear traces of gems once being removed. There were thick yellow sewing thread all over, showing signs of being cut off rather than torn, and from the spacing it was possible to tell approximately what shape the gems had, and where they were attached. Only one red gem had survived, partly hidden under an appliqué. The upper points of the collar also had multiple cut off threads, which I believe is traces of strings of beads once being attached there. So it seems this costume was stripped of decorations at some points, either because they were to brush it up but decided to sell it off instead, or because the deco was removed to be re-used before selling it off. I assume quality glass gems were used to decorate the front, made for being highly sparkly on stage and for surviving weekly dry cleaning. These might have been expensive enough for them to take the time to remove it before selling it. Whoever removed them was in a hurry anyway, as they've cut through the appliqués at places.
In between the appliqués strings of golden beads (rocailles) has been tucked down, in various spirals and "lumps". This creates a very nice effect, adding texture. I'm glad these weren't cut off, but they were probably not expensive enough to be re-used like the gems.
The golden collar before mending it. Note the single surviving gem.
Loose metal threads were looped around a needle to retain the original shape, before being tucked down.
The belt was in better shape than the collar. Not too many loose metal threads, and not too many beads and sequins missing. However, most beads had lost their colour, and now appeared yellow or white. This is probably due to dry cleaning. Mending the "crotch tiaras" was quick work, the back being slightly more damaged than the front, but nothing serious. The actual belt was more fragile, due to narrower areas. It showed signs of one or several repairs in the past, many places with thick glue! Everything was tucked down where it had come loose, beads filled in, and painted golden. I chose to paint the glue golden too, so it appeared more as beads than white lumps. The belt is sewn to the bodice, with a thick black thread. This in contrast to Christne Daaé's version of the costume, where the belt and rope skirt is removable and only attached with snap buttons, to make the next costume change easier. The inside of the belt is lined with black cotton, as can be seen in places where it has come loose.
The "crotch tiara" in front and back, before and during mending.
The belt before and after mending. Showed signs of being repaired with glue in the past. The gold is attached on black velvet.
The rope skirt and one of the large golden tassels in front.
The rope skirt is sewn to the belt, which in turn is sewn to the bodice. The ropes are thick, and surprisingly light weight. They have a white core, with a red or green or black colour braided around the core. The ropes seems to be of the same weight and quality. Fraying is avoided in the bottom by adding some sort of glue. There are more red and green ropes than black, and in front there are also gold cords, slightly thicker, and ending in large blackish gold tassels. Three of four tassels survive, the fourth is lost. The rope skirt is slightly longer in the back than in front, a light entasis. Most rope skirts have strings of beads in front. I can't find any traces of this being the case here. Which is kind of odd, seeing how both contemporary and the original Hamburg costumes had it. My best guess is that they were attached separately, maybe to a strip of fabric, which was sewn to the inside somewhere, and that this strip was removed for re-use before auctioning it off. But for all I know it might have been without as well.
A complete slavegirl costume would not only include the bodice and skirt. It would also need a golden tiara, golden wristbands, pale tights, green velvet slips and pointe shoes (often ballet flats for the Christine Daaé actress). This costume is pretty complete, with bodice, skirt, velvet slip and golden wristbands. The latter came as a total surprise, as the seller of the costume had included them as a bonus. That made me VERY happy.
THE RESTORED COSTUME
Restored bodice, and worn with my own Elissa skirt.
The main focus when restoring the costume was not to make it blingy, but rather to avoid further damages. The gold appliqués are made of thick gold cords which are spiraled and tucked down. Many of these had come loose and was stretched so the gold threads were everywhere, and in fear of getting caught in other materials. These were re-spiraled and tucked down in their original position. The plastic beads which had lost their colour got a new layer of golden coat. There are four thick gold cords in front of the skirt, with tassels in the bottom. One of them had lost the tassel and was unravelling. I stopped the raveling and when I find a matching black/gold yarn I will make a similar tassel to replace the lost one. The collar and "crotch tiara" had many thick yellow threads showing signs of where gems were previously attached. These threads were kept in place, and new gems placed over them. The colour composition is of course just guesswork, but it would originally have red and green gems, as both pictures and the one surviving gem shows.
But when details were mended, the costume seemed to come to life again. The shape of the collar and "crotch tiara" became more defined, and the replaced gems makes it glow. It is a beautiful item, with flattering tailoring and so nice materials. In the future I'll try to find a suitable model for it so the nice tailoring really shows.
MY AUTHENTIC PHANTOM COSTUMES
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